5 Steps To A Safer Workplaces

As unemployment climbs to historic rates and
large sectors of the economy at a standstill, many are eager to re-open
businesses. Here, in Pennsylvania, a new color-coded plan to re-open in phases
has been implemented (read more here *Hyperlink to last blog*). Further with
recommendations and laws seeming to change constantly staying on top of
everything has become an ominous task. The following is a five-step road map to
help you navigate through workplace safety during COVID-19.

1. Identify Key Safety Authorities, and Formalize A Schedule

Recommendations and guidelines seem to be coming in constantly,
from every organization. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA),
is usually responsible for business health recommendations. In this unique
situation, businesses should also follow information from the World Health
Organization (WHO), the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as
well as local and state health departments. Not all guidelines are equal, as government
agencies may lack enforcement power to require mandatory compliance. As an
employer, you must determine which regulations currently apply to your state,
county, and city to ensure compliance. 

Here are good places to start:

2. Assess COVID-19 Risks
Facing Employees In Your Workplace

Some safety precautions are universal, but others will vary by
your specific workforce’s risk level. It is critical that you evaluate your
workplace, and ensure compliance based on your risk level. OSHA has released
general guidelines (here), to help you determine which of the four risk categories you are
in. All employers are required to conduct a hazard assessment to determine if
COVID-19 presents a workplace hazard and if personal protective equipment will
be required. 

3. Prepare a COVID-19
Response Plan

If not already done, it is advised that you develop and implement
a written response plan, as this is consistent with OSHA’s workplace
recommendations, and will assist you in identifying gaps in your safety
protocol. For example, this plan would outline the planned response for an
employee feeling ill, an employee with COVID-19 symptoms, an employee who tests
positive, etc.  Be sure to account for the difference in recommendations
from different levels (OSHA or CDC versus State), and follow the more stringent
recommendation. 

OSHA recommends designating one employee is the COVID-19 Coordinator,
and task them with management and implementation of this response plan. Some
companies have found success in training additional employees to be “workplace
observers”. These observers work closely with the Coordinator and provide
suggestions and modifications based on what they see working in the office.

4. Communicate Your Plan
And Safety Expectations To Employees

Communication is the key in so many different situations, and this
one is no different. Your workplace will only be as safe as your workforce’s
willingness to cooperate and participate in the plan. Due to this, asking
employees to actively participate in safety planning can lead to more
understanding and execution of the plan.

Some employers have found it successful to provide weekly updates
to employees. During these updates, they can encourage employees to provide
feedback on what is, and more importantly, what is not working in the safety
plan. Fostering open lines of communication in this manner, or any other, with
employees, will reduce the likelihood that employees will resort to outside
complaints to correct where they feel your protection is lacking.

5. Train Managers To
Implement and Execute Your Plan

Managers, and supervisors alike, should be trained to ensure a
safe return to the workplace. Managers and supervisors should not only know the
generals of the safety plans but be well-versed in the details, and how to
respond to any unique challenge that is presented. Having managers ready to
answer any and all questions will work to lessen the heightened anxiety and
fear employees have. 

Have each manager work with their team and assure them of your
plan, and how the lines of communication are open to them. Your workplace
COVID-19 Coordinator can work with each manager to ensure compliance throughout
the organization. You may also require managers to handle all COVID-19 related
complaints in coordination with your COVID-19 Coordinator, or another
higher-level employee to ensure that these are being handled appropriately and
in compliance with all regulations. 

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